Red Rock West
|Red Rock West|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Dahl|
|Produced by||Steve Golin
|Written by||John Dahl
|Music by||William Olvis|
|Edited by||Scott Chestnut|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
Red Rock West is a 1993 American neo-noir film directed by John Dahl and starring Nicolas Cage, Lara Flynn Boyle, J. T. Walsh and Dennis Hopper. It was written by Dahl and his brother Rick, and shot in Montana and Willcox, Arizona.
The film was well received at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival, but deemed a cable and direct-to-video product by Columbia Tri-Star, which owned the North American rights. When Bill Banning, the owner of a San Francisco movie theater and a huge fan of the film, arranged for a theatrical release, the film gained a "buzz" and toured the U.S. as an art-house hit.
Michael Williams (Nicolas Cage) is a drifter living out of his car after being discharged from the Marine Corps. A job on an oilfield falls through due to his unwillingness to conceal a war injury on his job application, so Michael wanders into rural Red Rock, Wyoming, looking for other work.
A local bar owner named Wayne (J. T. Walsh) mistakes him for a hit man, "Lyle from Dallas," whom Wayne has hired to kill his wife. Wayne offers him a stack of cash—"half now, half later"—and Michael doesn't correct him, taking the money.
Michael then visits Wayne's wife, Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle), and attempts to warn her that her life is in danger instead of killing her. She offers him more money to kill Wayne. Michael tries to leave town, but a car accident leads him to encounter the local sheriff, who turns out to be Wayne. Michael manages to escape from Wayne but runs into the real Lyle from Dallas (Dennis Hopper). Lyle and Wayne quickly figure out what has transpired, while Michael desperately tries to warn Suzanne before Lyle finds her.
The next morning, when Lyle comes to get money from Wayne, he kidnaps both Suzanne and Michael, who are trying to retrieve hidden cash from Wayne's office. Wayne and Suzanne are revealed to be wanted for embezzlement, and Wayne is arrested by his own deputies. Lyle returns with Michael and Suzanne hostage and gets Wayne out of jail to retrieve their stash of money. At a remote graveyard, Wayne pulls a gun from the case of money and holds Lyle at gunpoint before Lyle throws a knife into Wayne's neck. Michael and Lyle fight, with Lyle ending up being impaled on a grave marker. When Lyle rises to attack Michael, Suzanne shoots him dead.
Michael and Suzanne escape onto a nearby train, but when Suzanne tries to betray Michael, he throws the money out of the speeding train and then throws Suzanne off to be arrested by the arriving police accompanied by a wounded Wayne. Michael's train continues its journey into a new town.
- Nicolas Cage as Michael Williams
- Dennis Hopper as Lyle from Dallas
- Lara Flynn Boyle as Suzanne Brown/Ann McCord
- J. T. Walsh as Wayne Brown/Kevin McCord
- Dwight Yoakam as Truck Driver
- Timothy Carhart as Deputy Matt Greytack
- Robert Apel as Howard
Red Rock West was made in 1992 in Arizona on a budget of $7 million. The domestic rights were sold to Columbia Tri-Star home video for $2.5 million and the foreign rights to Manifesto Films, a subsidiary of Polygram Filmed Entertainment. Test screenings for the film were not strong and Peter Graves, an independent consultant who headed the marketing department at Polygram said, "The film doesn't fall neatly into any marketable category. A western film noir isn't something people can immediately spark to." One of the film's producers suggested early on that the film be submitted to the Sundance Film Festival and was told by the studio that it wasn't a festival film. Columbia sold Red Rock West to cable and it was shown seven times on HBO in the fall of 1993.
The film opened successfully in theaters in Germany, Paris, and London in the summer of 1993. Piers Handling, director of the Toronto International Film Festival saw the film in Paris and decided to show it at the festival in September. Bill Banning, who owned the Roxie Cinema and Roxie Releasing in San Francisco saw Red Rock West in Toronto and thought that there might be an American theatrical audience for the film. It took him until January 1994 to find out who owned the rights. The film had already played on HBO at this point and was due to come out on video in February. Banning started showing Red Rock West at the Roxie Cinema on January 28, 1994 where it broke box office records before expanding to eight theaters in the city. It then opened in Los Angeles and New York City.
The soundtrack for the film features a number of country music performers, including Johnny Cash, Shania Twain, Toby Keith, The Kentucky Headhunters, and Sammy Kershaw. Dwight Yoakam wrote the film's closing credits song "A Thousand Miles From Nowhere" when the film was being made and while the musician made his film acting debut in the film. The song went on to become a Top 10 country hit.
In his review for the Washington Post, Richard Harrington praised it as "a treasure waiting to be discovered." In her review for the New York Times, Caryn James called it "a terrifically enjoyable, smartly acted, over-the-top thriller." It currently maintains a score of 95% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes indicating general critical acclaim, and it is currently the highest rated film starring Nicolas Cage or Lara Flynn Boyle.
- Hornaday, Anne (April 3, 1994). "Film Noir, 'Tweener' or Flub?". New York Times.
- Bearden, Keith (August 1, 1994). "John Dahl". MovieMaker. Retrieved 2009-03-05.[dead link]
- Harrington, Richard (April 15, 1994). "Red Rock West: Strange Turns on the Road". Washington Post.
- James, Caryn (April 8, 1994). "The New Boy in a Town Ruled by Coincidence". New York Times.
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